A third of French wine production lost due to cold snap: Industry body

AFP
Paris, France Published: Apr 16, 2021, 11:21 AM(IST)

This picture shows Bollinger James Bond champagne boxes of French champagne house Bollinger Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The rare freezing temperatures that have caused some of the worst damage in decades to crops and vines struck across France earlier this month, with the consequences compounded by the fact the cold snap came after warm weather

At least a third of French wine production this year, representing almost two billion euros ($2.4 billion) in sales, will be lost due to a bout of unusually cold early spring weather, a federation said Wednesday.

National Federation of Agricultural Holders' Unions (FNSEA) secretary general Jerome Despey told AFP that the estimate was made after consultations with all the players in the sector.

The rare freezing temperatures that have caused some of the worst damage in decades to crops and vines struck across France earlier this month, with the consequences compounded by the fact the cold snap came after warm weather.

"This is probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century," Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said on Monday, adding that France has never seen such an frost wave in early spring. The government is preparing an emergency package of measures.

The government is readying an emergency rescue package following rare freezing temperatures that could cause some of the most damage in decades to crops and vines across the country.

From Bordeaux to Burgundy and the Rhone valley to Champagne, winemakers were back out in their fields on Friday inspecting the destruction. 

To ward off frost overnight on Tuesday and Wednesday, farmers across the country lit thousands of small fires and candles near their vines or fruit trees.

Some well-heeled vineyards hired helicopters to try and keep the heat close to the ground.

The burning was so intense in the southeast that it led to a layer of smog over the region, including over the city of Lyon.  

As well as vines, growers of kiwis, apricots, apples and other fruit have been badly hit along with farmers of other crops such as beet and rapeseed.

During a visit to the Loire wine-making area, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said it was "an episode of extreme violence which has caused extremely significant damage".

The government has declared an "agricultural disaster", meaning it will begin offering financial support to farmers, and Denormandie called on banks and insurance companies to join in the efforts.

Many wine makers are not insured against the effects of frost because of the cost of the coverage and many producers were already struggling financially.

The Covid-19 pandemic has depressed demand for wine globally because of the closure of restaurants and bars. 

Exports to the United States have also been hit by tariffs on French wine imposed by former US president Donald Trump, while the vital British market has also suffered because of Brexit.

A group of 60 French MPs from wine-making areas published on open letter Friday urging the government to come to the rescue of producers, saying they "really feared the worst."  

The practice of lighting fires or candles near vines or fruit trees to prevent frost forming is a long-standing technique used in early spring when the first green shoots and flowers are vulnerable to the cold.

Some winegrowers also use wind machines to keep frost from setting in.

Others use water sprinklers to deliberately create ice which acts like a mini-igloo around branches, preventing the frost from drying out the leaves.

Read in App